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Coronation Street becomes first continuing drama to use virtual production

The ITV series has employed virtual production for a special rooftop sequence set to air this week

As part of a major storyline airing this week, ITV’s Coronation Street has become the first continuing drama to employ virtual production, working with Manchester-based studio Recode XR.

This week marks the end of the road for character Kelly Neelan, who is involved in a number of scenes on top of a roof.

To shoot the sequence, the Coronation Street production team employed the volume wall technology at Recode XR.

“The centrepiece of the week we’ve shot using technology that’s more commonly found in things like The Mandalorian,” said producer Iain MacLeod.

“It means you can put your actors anywhere that you can imagine. So you know, you can essentially design a 3D world like the surface of Mars, and you could stick Ken Barlow up there if you wish. We didn’t want to do that because that’d be slightly bizarre. So what we’ve done instead is create this incredible rooftop sequence with the twinkling Mancunian cityscape behind it, so that we can do things that you could never normally do on a location shoot.”

MacLeod added that using the technology enabled the production team to move the camera in a whole new way then they can on a physical set. “The camera can swoop, fly and move around in ways that you can’t do for real,” he said. “So we’ve created this incredibly cinematic sequence to the set piece of the week, which I’m incredibly excited about, it’s incredible.”

He continued that the technology has given Corrie a “truly cinematic feel” and that the production team have been joking that they no longer need physical sets.

“You just need a volume wall, and then you can just go bang, and you’re in the Rovers, and then you go bang, and you’re in The Cabin. In 10, 20 years that might actually be the case.”

MacLeod described the process as “mind bogglingly technical” which led to the production team hiring virtual production experts to work with them on the sequence. “It’s completely staggering,” he added. “It might be something that, as a genre we will come to use when we want to do something spectacular.

“It’s witchcraft, but I I love it, and it was all very exciting. You’ve never seen so many people contrive a reason to go down and visit a filming set when they’ve really not got any reason to be there at all,” he added.